At just 12 years, 10 months and 13 days, R Praggnanandhaa has become India’s youngest and world’s second youngest Grandmaster after making it to the final round at the Gredine Open in Italy. He missed out on becoming the youngest ever by three months with Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine holding the record of being the youngest Grandmaster in the world at 12 years, 7 months – a feat achieved in 2002. Incidentally, the fourth spot in youngest Grandmasters is also held by an Indian – Parimarjan Negi at 13 years, 4 months and 22 days.
By beating Moroni Luca Jr in the eighth round, Pragnnandhaa needed to play an opponent above of rating of 2482 in the final round to make his third norm. Luck shone on him when he was paired with GM Prujjsers Roeland, rated 2514, which made it possible. Legendary Viswanathan Anand lauded Praggnanandhaa’s feat and picked him out as a bright hope for the future. “What impresses me about Praggnanandhaa is that he’s not just a strong player but mixes imaginative middle game play with patient endgame skills and is uncompromising in not settling for easy, quick draws,” Anand was quoted as saying by ESPN India. “He’s also shown a level of sophistication in handling tournament games. I think he will go far.”
To become a Grandmaster, one needs to earn three norms and an Elo rating of 2500. Pragnnandhaa had won his first GM norm at the World Junior Championships in Tarvisio, Italy in 2017. The second norm was achieved after winning the Herkalion Fischer Memorial GM Norm tournament in Greece this year in April. Following the eighth round at the Gredine Open, he has 6.5 points to stand joint-top.
When of all of 10 years and nine months, Praggnanandhaa had become the youngest International Master in the history of chess. To become the youngest Grandmaster, he needed to complete all the norms and touch an Elo rating of 2500 before March 10 this year which would have taken him past Karjakrin. But that dream looked stiff after couple of disappointing results at the World Junior Championship (finished fourth), Charlotte Chess, Gibraltar Chess Festival (finished 63rd) and then a race against the clock at the Bobby Fischer Memorial.
To put things in perspective, Magnus Carlsen became a GM when he was 13 years and 4 months old, while Anand, India’s first ever GM, was 18 years old when he earned his third norm. In fact, at Praggnanandhaa’s age, he wasn’t even an IM.
Youngest grandmasters in history:
1. Sergey Karjakin (Ukraine) 12 years, 7 months
2. R Praggnandhaa (India) 12 years, 10 months
3. Nodirbek Abdusattorov (Uzbekistan) 13 years, 1 month
4. Parimarjan Negi (India) 13 years, 4 months
5. Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 13 years, 4 months